An interview with Lisa M. Curran, Executive Director of the Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation
by Antay Bilgutay, Director of Development
Hartford Stage and one of its longtime supporters, the Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation, both turned 55 this year. We asked Executive Director Lisa M. Curran a few questions about their perspective as philanthropic leaders in the Hartford community.
Fifty-five years of philanthropy is a noteworthy milestone. What would you say is the most important thing the Roberts Foundation has learned about supporting the arts in Hartford during that time?
When the Roberts Foundation was founded in 1964, there weren’t that many arts organizations in Hartford. We had our “crown jewels” – The Bushnell, Hartford Symphony Orchestra, the Wadsworth Atheneum and Hartford Stage – but not the range and diversity of arts organization our community has today. In fact, rumor has it there are more arts organization in Hartford than Dunkin Donuts! So, if there’s anything the Roberts Foundation has learned over the years is that this region has the appetite and capacity to sustain hundreds of arts organizations – big and small – and that every arts organization is vital and contributes to the vibrancy of the region.
That’s encouraging to hear, especially when so many people default to talking about the challenges we face in the city. What other opportunities do you see for Hartford?
We think the biggest opportunity facing Hartford today lies in building a relationship with its young people. It is so exciting to see all the students in downtown – UConn, Capital Community College and University of St Joseph’s Pharmacy School. They are the future workforce, homeowners, taxpayers and, of course, arts patrons, artists, arts leaders and donors. That being said, a lot of couples have left the suburbs and moved downtown once their kids have grown and moved on. The city needs to reconnect with these “Boomers” who grew up shopping at G. Fox, cheered on The Whalers and partied at Mad Murphy’s. They remain engaged and bring great energy to the city.
The Roberts Foundation is a generous sponsor of the play that opens our 2019/2020 season. What was it about Quixote Nuevo that intrigued you and the board of directors?
The Roberts Foundation board was very excited when presented with the opportunity to fund Quixote Nuevo. We were intrigued by the contemporary spin on this well-loved classic and the opportunity to support Artistic Director Melia Bensussen and Managing Director Cynthia Rider’s first production in Hartford. We were particularly attracted to the project because of Hartford Stage’s commitment to engage Latinx audiences which are underserved in this community, especially when it comes to the arts. From the Tejano music and dance to the casting of Emilio Delgado, this was a production the board was eager to see in Hartford. But we also wanted to fund Quixote Nuevo because of our deep abiding trust in Hartford Stage, which has given us the opportunity to partner with them in bringing some incredible plays to Hartford from last year’s blockbuster The Engagement Party to The Age of Innocence, Rear Window, Man in a Case and The Comedy of Errors. Guess you could say, Quixote Nuevo became our quest!